The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel investigating the cleanup of the Coeur d’Alene Superfund site in Idaho is rife with members who have undisclosed financial ties to major corporate polluters, watchdog groups say. According to documents filed with the NAS by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), six of 19 members of the panel have ties to mining, electric power, chemical, and other polluting industries. CSPI says the NAS should remove two members with the most direct and obvious ties to mining companies, and bring further balance to the committee by adding new experts that represent environmental groups or the affected communities.
Decades of mining has made the Coeur d’Alene region one of the most polluted sites in the country. The NAS panel is charged with reviewing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) cleanup plan for the site, but environmentalists say that the review is designed to thwart or delay the cleanup.
“If the panel is to have any credibility, it cannot have members who are connected to the companies or industries responsible for polluting the site,” said Merrill Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science Project at CSPI. “And the NAS should appoint some experts that actually reflect the perspective of the impacted communities. The mining industry is certainly free to criticize the EPA’s cleanup plan if it wishes, but it need not do so from a perch on a government panel.”
According to CSPI and NRDC, the appointments of Teresa Bowers and Corale L. Brierley run afoul of the Federal Advisory Committees Act (FACA), which prohibits the appointment of people with financial conflicts of interest to government panels unless the conflicts are unavoidable and immediately disclosed. Bowers is a principal of Gradient Corporation, which helps mining and other industries reduce their legal and financial exposure in pollution cases. Gradient represents the National Mining Association which in turn represents at least two companies responsible for polluting the site. Brierley consults with mining and chemical companies, and holds patents on techniques that have been licensed to companies that may be involved in the cleanup.
Last week one member of the committee with an even more obvious tie to a mining company involved at the Coeur d’Alene site resigned. Rosalind Schoof of Integral Consulting, Inc. had represented ASARCO, a major Coeur d’Alene polluter.
“If you needed advice on environmental cleanup, you wouldn’t call on a polluter or their hired guns,” said NRDC senior scientist Jennifer Sass. “Regrettably, that’s what the NAS is doing.”
CSPI and NRDC supplied the National Academies with a chart outlining the industry affiliations of the panel members.For more information, contact: Center for Science in the Public Interest